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Looking ahead: preparing for the new year

8:00, 1st September 2017

There have been many challenges pitted against education this year – and certainly against music in particular. With the English Baccalaureate serving as a seemingly unmovable hurdle to a rich and healthy music education for all, and forced academisation happening left, right and centre, it can feel as though music is a field of doom and gloom.

But as we know, music teachers are both resilient and forward-thinking, and as such, here is not the place for negativity. With the new academic year ahead of us, let’s hear about how four teachers are preparing for it.

Margaret Lawrence
Head of music, Glebelands School, Surrey

At Glebelands High School, the focus in the music department will always be on creating an inspiring, active and happy learning environment – a place with a modern and relevant curriculum where students can experiment, make mistakes, cause a racket, and experience joy and freedom. This is central to everything I do.

I am looking forward to another brilliant year of hope, creativity and love
As ever, new initiatives driven by school management will have to be incorporated into the curriculum and all of the following will be done:

  • Introduction of a new ‘GCSE-like’ curriculum, including the study of a ‘GCSE-style’ set work;
  • More regular formal assessment using new GCSE grades 9-1 and grade criteria;
  • Even more homework will be set regularly and will be meaningful and relevant;
  • Recorded evidence will be provided to show that ‘pupil premium’ students are making the same or above-average progress as the others;
  • The Year 9 curriculum will be adapted to accommodate the new ‘carousel’ arrangement – one ten-week module of double lessons;
  • More information will be included on seating plans, such as target grades for all students, ‘gifted and talented’, SEND, and ‘pupil premium’ status;
  • GCSE music will continue to be taught after school – strategies to ensure success, with more content and a higher standard to reach with less teaching time, will continue to be developed;
  • Lunchtime extracurricular activities – orchestra, choir, jazz club, experimental music club, keyboard club and ukulele club – will continue to be developed according to student need;
  • Opportunities for evening and weekend concerts and trips will continue;
  • The ‘open door’ policy for students during lunchtime and after school will persist;
  • The upkeep and repair of classroom instruments (30 guitars, 30 ukuleles, 30 African drums and 15 keyboards) will continue.

My priorities will be sustaining our school orchestra through the building of further links within the local community and ensuring a good outcome for our GCSE students. I remain undaunted by the ridiculous workload, dispiriting amount of unnecessary bureaucracy, interference from ‘above’ and the slow disappearance of this subject from the school curriculum. I am looking forward to another brilliant year of hope, creativity and love.

Caitlin Sherring
Music coordinator, Woodcroft Primary School

As a music and arts coordinator, the coming academic year is looking to be one of the most challenging to date. Like the majority of schools across the UK, we’ve been hit hard by the government’s budget cuts, and we’ve had to be creative with all aspects of our music and arts provision.

We will continue to subsidise our instrumental tuition, which the head teacher and I felt was essential despite the rising costs of tutors. How much longer we will be able to do this without other forms of income remains to be seen, but it is reassuring that music remains a priority for both SLT and school governors.

The last academic year was our ‘Year of Creative Arts’, during which we utilised visual and performing arts to drive our whole-school PSHE themes and to stimulate and support the entire curriculum. Going forward it is essential to maintain the arts drive throughout the whole school to prevent the potential of arts being viewed as an add-on as we move into the next stage of our four-year cycle.

Like the majority of schools across the UK, we’ve been hit hard by the government’s budget cuts, and we’ve had to be creative with all aspects of our music and arts provision.

Interest from pupils and parents in the music programme remains high, and growth potential based on interest is still prevalent. In reality we are an extremely busy school working well beyond capacity in all areas, and all curriculum leads are passionate about the growth and development of their subject areas. To date we’ve managed to find a balance to ensure exceptional opportunities for all pupils, but moving forward we will require maintenance without growth to ensure pupils don’t exhaust themselves and that all opportunities are equally able to succeed.

Michaela Duckett
Head of music, Grace Academy Darlaston

Last year was all about change at Grace Academy Darlaston. As well as connecting with the local music hub for the first time and delivering First Access violin lessons to all Year 7 students, much of last year was spent recrafting the Key Stage 3 curriculum. This was to ensure a meaningful and coherent transition for musicians who opt in to study music in Key Stage 4 (to a new BTEC music course) as well as providing all students with valuable and enjoyable learning experiences. It was exciting, hectic and, at points, a stomach-wrenching roller coaster!

Links with the music hub last year were so successful that this partnership will continue and strengthen. The change this year is thankfully minimal, and I am looking forward to embedding the best of last year, while making some minor tweaks. Essentially, the curriculum content is not changing, although I am always researching and investigating new resources or updating the bank of key repertoire required for each topic. Links with the music hub last year were so successful that this partnership will continue and strengthen – more hours are booked in and engagement is high.

The annual concert diary is already booked up (finalised in July this year) so my students, the instrumental team and I are aware well in advance of our performance deadlines – the first being just four days back from the summer holiday! With engagement high, there will be more of a focus on ‘excellence’ this year, with extra opportunities built into concert programmes to allow those students ready to solo competently to do so with confidence. In terms of paperwork, I work well in advance: assessment plans are completed, Personal Learning Checklists for each assessment point are blank and ready to be completed, and pre-written letters for instrumental clubs and permission for concerts are waiting to be sent to reprographics. Everything is ready to go – so bring on the September madness!

James Manwaring
Director of music, Windsor Learning Partnership

This year is going to be fantastic! My main focus is the development of music across Windsor Learning Partnership – the multi-academy trust for which I am director of music. This year I will be teaching music at Key Stages 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, and I am sure that will present some challenges. I am going to set clear goals and work with colleagues across the schools to learn more about working with younger children. It is a chance to shape music in Windsor from the ground up, and I can’t wait.

I am looking forward to staging Beauty and the Beast in November and also continuing to develop the new GCSE and A-level specifications. I have a concert tour to Paris in April and a Windsor Learning Partnership musical in June, where I hope to bring together students from across all four academy schools.

Last year saw the numbers of students involved in music increase but this year I want to see a rise in instrumental players, and I also hope to get some students started right from Year 1. I am going to work closely with my music hub to achieve this. Budgets will be an issue but with lots of events and fundraising, as well as supportive parents, I know that I will raise enough to keep music alive in Windsor.

This year I want to see a rise in instrumental players and I also hope to get some students started right from Year 1.

I believe that music is changing lives in Windsor and it is this knowledge, along with my passion for music education, that will keep me going this year. Oh, and I also hope to develop my blog (www.manwaringmusic.blog) and continue to provide other teachers with ideas and resources.

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